Soldier warned of ricochet risk during training exercise, court martial told

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A soldier was told to keep his helmet and body armour on as there was a risk of being hit by a ricochet bullet during a training exercise in which another soldier was shot dead, a court martial heard.

Thomas Pell said an instructor told him not to take off his kit as he could be shot by a weapon fired from a nearby drill.

Mr Pell was taking part in an exercise at the Castlemartin Training Area in Pembrokeshire in May 2012 when Ranger Michael Maguire, 21, was shot in the forehead by a round fired from a GPMG machine gun.

Rgr Maguire, 21, from County Cork, Ireland was serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment when he died.

Two officers and a sergeant are facing court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire in connection with the soldier’s death.

Captain Jonathan Price, 32, now of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish, is accused of the manslaughter by gross negligence of Rgr Maguire through his failure to set up and supervise a safe exercise.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bell, 45, and Warrant Officer Stuart Pankhurst, 40, are both accused of negligently performing a duty.

Mr Pell said after firing a GPMG he was told to wait in the rest spot but keep his body armour and helmet on because there was a risk of being hit by a ricochet from an adjacent area.

“It was one of them running the GPMG range. I can’t remember who told me that,” said Mr Pell, who was then serving with the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

“They said ‘Keep your body armour and helmet on because the switch position is over there’.”

Catherine Bradshaw, representing Sgt Pankhurst, suggested to Mr Pell that rather than being told that by one of his supervisors it was in fact “chit chat” in the rest area.

“On that day, as well as today, you are saying that you were told there was a risk of you being shot?” she asked.

Mr Pell replied: “Yes. It didn’t cross my mind, I didn’t think anything of it. I got told to take cover behind the mound because there could be ricochets.”

Miss Bradshaw asked: “You didn’t want to get shot that day. I am going to suggest that if you really had been told that you wouldn’t have just sat there.”

The prosecution allege Capt Price failed to attend a recce of the range when preparing a Range Action Safety Plan (Rasp), that he placed targets too close together and he failed to “deconflict” the two exercises.

Lt Col Bell, the senior planning officer, is accused of failing to review or counter-sign the Rasp produced by Capt Price and failing to supervise or support him.

Staff Sgt Pankhurst, who was supervising the exercise involving Rgr Maguire in area 10A, is accused of failing to “express any caution or concern” despite having attended the recce and having knowledge of the extent of the adjacent shooting in area 10B.

All three defendants deny the charges and the trial before a board of seven senior officers continues.

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